New Delhi: The trend for India from four years ago at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) may continue at Gold Coast 2018, with wrestling and shooting expected to be the chief source of gold in India’s medals tally.
The wrestlers and shooters finished No. 1 and 2 winning five and four gold medals, respectively, in Glasgow to contribute to India’s 15 gold and 64 total medals (30 silver, 19 bronze).
In two-time Olympics medal-winner Sushil Kumar (75kg), 2014 CWG medallists Vinesh Phogat (50k) and Babita Kumari (53kg) and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, India boast of a powerful wrestling contingent, which also includes gold-medal hopeful Bajrang Punia (65kg).
If the likes of Somveer Kadian (86kg), Sumit (125kg) and Kiran (76kg) can punch above their weight, the Indian wrestlers could be in for their richest ever gold-haul at the Games.
Shooting’s chief hopes for a finish in the centre of the podium rest with Jitu Rai (50m Free Pistol and 10m Air Pistol), Apurvi Chandela (10m Air Rifle), Heena Sidhu (25m Sports Pistol, 10m Air Pistol), Manu Bhaker (10m Air Pistol) and Gagan Narang (50m Rifle Prone).
But the likes of Sanjeev Rajput ( 50m Rifle 3 Position), Manavjit Singh Sandhu (trap), Kynan Chenai (trap), Tejaswini Sawant (50m Rifle 3 Position and 50m Rifle Prone), Chain Singh (50m Rifle 3 Position and 50m Rifle Prone) and Annuraj Singh (25m Sports Pistol) are all gold medal material on their day.
The boxers may consider themselves unlucky having not been able to convert any of their four silver and a bronze to gold in Glasgow four years ago. The squad will hope that legend Mary Kom (48kg), Sarita Devi (60kg) as well as Vikas Krishan (75kg) and Manoj Kumar (69kg) can lead the charge and change the trend in Australia.
A lot of hopes will be attached to Indian shuttlers who could manage just one gold (Parupalli Kashyap in men’s singles) besides a silver and a couple of bronze medals in 2014. But since then, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth have made major strides in their respective careers, while Saina Nehwal has managed to fix her brittle fitness. Also in the fray for gold will be India’s in-for mixed team pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy.
The men’s hockey team will like to turn the tables on hosts Australia, who beat them in the final of the last two editions of the CWG in 2010 and 2014. Having said that, the Sjoerd Marijne-coached team is looking good to reach the gold-medal match this time as well.
Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns
Melbourne: Australia has turned down Pakistan Cricket Board’s request to play two One Day International (ODI) matches in the country, citing security concerns. The PCB had asked Cricket Australia to play two of the five ODIs, which are slated to be played in UAE, in Pakistan, but security concerns made Cricket Australia decide against the same.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, though the proposal has been rejected by the Australian cricket board, it has assured the PCB that they would be open to the idea in the future.
“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” said a CA spokesperson.
“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.”
“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January,” he added.
The PCB has in return, declined reports of Australia refusing to tour Pakistan, terming negotiations with Cricket Australia (CA) as currently ‘open and ongoing’.
Australia have not played an away series against Pakistan since 1998 which PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had attempted to address during the former’s recent Test series against the Asian side.
Mani attempted to convince CA chief executive Kevin Roberts to schedule an away series against Pakistan, urging them to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe who had toured the nation since 2017.
Sri Lanka’s return was hailed as a major boost considering the deadly attack on their players in Lahore in 2009.
Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja have recently expressed a desire to tour Pakistan, in case the security concerns were addressed.
“Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing. We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe,” said Khawaja.
“I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away,” he added.
Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect
London: As the tennis world continued to digest the prospect of Andy Murray`s retirement, an evergreen Roger Federer pondered the “luck” of his longevity on Sunday ahead of his bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.
Murray`s announcement that Melbourne Park could be his last tournament as a professional has made 37-year-old Federer`s career seem all the more miraculous.
Seeking a 21st Grand Slam title and a record seventh in Melbourne, the Swiss will plough into his 20th consecutive Australian Open on Monday with a first round clash against Uzbek Denis Istomin.
While suffering an assortment of niggles common to all hardened professionals, Federer`s only major layoff came in 2016, after he tore his meniscus when running a bath for his twin daughters.
It happened a day after losing the Australian Open semi-final to winner Novak Djokovic, but a year later, he was back raising a fifth trophy at the tournament.
While knowing the limits of his body and full of praise for his team for being able to patch him up repeatedly, Federer admitted that fortune had played a part in his longevity.
“I definitely needed a little bit of luck,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“If you look at how unlucky things were with the incident here a few years ago when I ran the bath, I guess the knee, that part of the body was ready to go.
“Could have happened easily in the match against Novak, but it didn`t, maybe because I was warmed up. I have no idea what happened. I think you also need a little bit of luck.”
The 31-year-old Murray has been far less fortunate, with major hip surgery a year ago doing nothing to stop the pain that has driven the Scot to distraction and the brink of retirement.
Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto
London: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that the club were looking to sign a centre forward in the January transfer window after selling Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla.
The league leaders want back-up for Luis Suarez after Sevilla agreed a one-million-euro ($1.15-million) deal to buy Spain international Munir on Friday, leaving the Uruguayan as the only No. 9 at the club, playing between Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.
“We have to look at it, it`s clear that after Munir`s departure we have a space,” Valverde told reporters on Saturday.
“We`ll see if we can sign a player, although we have to take into account the club`s economic conditions. We will see if we can, if someone comes.”
Asked about Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has been linked to Barcelona in Spanish media reports, Valverde said: “I can only say the same thing — that he`s a great player, that he`s at another team, that we respect that a lot, etcetera.”
Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga with 40 points, with Atletico Madrid trailing them in second place with 35 points.